Tuesday, 30 April 2013

WordPress Weekly Writing Challenge: A Manner of Speaking

For this week’s writing challenge, showcase your slang. It can be a display of regional pride, a contemplation on new words you’ve heard, but still don’t quiet understand, or a practice in dialogue that mimics our regular speaking patterns

This is right up me street mate. Yer see I was born a cockney. Now I ain’t going to write all that rhyming slang cos ya won’t understand it, I can’t be bovvered to explain it all and you probably won’t get it all any’ow. The fing is you ‘ave to drop all your aches. You know that letter in the alphabet, comes after g and before i. I don’t mean it makes a crash bang and lands on the floor, it just don’t exist in cockney, don’t need ‘em, so frow ‘em away. Like we live in a ‘ouse. Somefing else, we luv doing two no’s when we talk. Like I ain’t got nuffing, see. If you ain’t got nuffing, then you ‘ave to ‘ave somefing, but you don’t ‘ave somefing cos you’ve already said that you ain’t got nuffing. Simple ain’t it.

Nah I was ‘appy wiv all this way to talk. Me mum understood me, me dad knew wot I was talking about, and so did me aunts and uncles. Of course it weren’t the proper Kings English was it? At least I don’t fink that Queen Elizabeth talked like that. She was more in the way of talking wiv an apple in her gob.

Then I got older, like wasn’t a cockney sparra any more, but grew up and ‘ad to go to a posh school, like ‘igh school and they wanted us all to talk proper. We were all from the East End of London and cockneys, some more than ovvers. I was a bit more. All the same I ’ad to learn to speak proper, so if you can’t beat ‘em you join ‘em and I was quite good wiv me vowels and consonents. I even started to use me aches.

And then something remarkable happened. I threw all this cockney behind me and left England to work in Switzerland, thinking that I would get by with my English language and my elementary German. Wrong! If you think that German does not have any dialects or accents, then forget it. The Swiss invented the dialect. No-one speaks good German at home, on the streets or in the supermarkets. They invented the dialect. First of all they have four languages. German in the East, French in the West, Italian in the South and sandwiched between all of this somewhere in the mountains in the east they speak Romansh which is a language descending from Vulgar Latin. That would be complicated enough, but dialect being the mother of invention in Switzerland Romansch is also split into roughly four dialects.

The German language in Switzerland has more than 30 dialects, varying according to which village or town you live in. What the French do with their language I am not sure, but I do know it can vary with the way things are said, and the French find the Swiss French quite amusing. Italian is spoken in a sing-song sort of way.

I would add that in the Swiss German schools, so-called high German is spoken, otherwise the Swiss children would grow up speaking a dialect that only the Swiss would understand. Switzerland is a small country with approximately seven million population, so the Swiss would be quite isolated with their strange guttural dialect(s). Broadcasting language is also basically high German the news and the weather forecast also, but the rest is a mixture. They seem to speak what they feel like speaking.

So there I was, a simple cockney sitting in Zürich with two years high German confronted with everyone speaking their own dialect. I decided to move from Zürich to another town, perhaps hoping that the dialect choice would be restricted. No, I was a sucker for punishment. Not only did they speak differently in Solothurn, where I arrived, but I even married one of them, my Mr. Swiss.

I have now been living in Switzerland for forty-six years, forty-four of which I have been married to a Swiss and even possess a Swiss passport. Mr. Swiss brought two Swiss children into the marriage, who could speak basically only Swiss German. I myself made a contribution of two children, who grew up in Switzerland speak Swiss German as their mother tongue. What choice did I have?

So that the story of a cockney in Switzerland. Not that I ‘ave forgot me cockney. Oh yea, I can still speak it if I want to, trouble being that no-one would understand it. Mr. Swiss can understand it, ‘e ‘ad to, ovverwise we would ‘ave ‘ad problems. The kids sort of understand it, me youngest best of all. ‘E likes to frow a few cockney words in when ‘e’s speaking English, but I fink ‘es just showing off a bit.

And now I will close down this bit of blog stuff. Life ain’t easy when you are surrounded by a lot of foreigners all speaking their own stuff, I just ‘ad to learn it meself. No problem, but when I see me dad in England ‘e sometimes asks wot language I’m speaking. See I get a bit mixed up now and again, but you can’t blame me can you.

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